Chelsea v PAOK Thursday November 29, 20:00 Live on BT Sport 2
Chelsea in need of a pick-me-up after Wembley woe
When Chelsea's first defeat of the season arrived, it was a bit of a doozy. The Blues were beaten 3-1 at Tottenham in an exhilarating London derby, and manager Maurizio Sarriadmitted afterwards that the defeat highlighted some of the problems he has believed for some time that the team had. Given that the defeat came hot on the heels of a frustrating 0-0 draw with Everton, this constitutes Chelsea's first real wobble of the Sarri era.
There have been no such issues for the Blues in the Europa League. They have won all four matches in the competition so far, and another victory at Stamford Bridge on Thursday (or indeed a draw) will confirm Chelsea as group winners.
Sarri has resisted the temptation to field an array of youngsters in this competition, and even star man Eden Hazard started the 1-0 Matchday Four win in Belarus against BATE Borisov. The likes of Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta and Emerson Palmieri have all used the UEL to try to catch Sarri's eye, and Olivier Giroud's winner against BATE gave him a welcome boost.
PAOK still in the hunt despite miserable campaign
PAOK have been one of the biggest disappointments of the group stage. They finished second in the Greek Super League last term, and they are currently top of the domestic standings, but in this competition they have fallen short. They have lost both of their home matches against Chelsea and Vidi, and a surprise 4-1 victory at BATE Borisov yielded their only points so far.
A surprise victory at Stamford Bridge would put them right back in the race for the last 32, but their recent away form in the UEL suggests that's unlikely. They have won just one of their last five road matches in the Europa League, although a 1-0 success at mighty Olympiakos in the GSL at the end of September suggests they can beat talented sides on their travels.
Leo Matos is back from suspension and should line up in the back four, while PAOK are heavily dependent on Aleksandar Prijovic in attack. The Serbian has scored seven league goals in ten games, and he has netted five times in Europe this term.
Blues set for comfortable win
After two games without a win Chelsea will be keen to play their way back into form, and I expect Sarri to pick a strong enough side to win this with room to spare. When these teams met in Greece, Chelsea won 1-0 but made chances to win far more comfortably.
I'll back the hosts -1.5 on the Asian Handicap at 1.93.
PAOK to draw a blank?
There's certainly an argument to be made for backing Chelsea to win to nil at 2.20. PAOK have failed to score in three of their four group games so far, and they didn't create much against the Blues in Thessaloniki.
RLC to undo PAOK?
Ruben Loftus-Cheek made the most of his chance to shine in the last UEL home game against BATE Borisov, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-1 win. He is 21/10 on the Sportsbook to score against PAOK, with Giroud evens and Willian (who got the winner in the reverse fixture) priced at 17/10.